BODY BUILDING LOVE
Calling to a higher Life
April 5, 2017
We come to our fifth session of Body-building Love. Hopefully, we now have a deeper and clearer understanding of what Love is really all about. As we come to the conclusion of Lent, preparing for Holy Week and Easter, the lessons should serve as a timely message to transform our lives from where we were 40 days ago to where God is taking us.
Tonight we will look at Love in these remarkable ways:
Love is NOT JEALOUS (1 Corinthians 13:4c)
Love does NOT SEEK ITS OWN (1 Corinthians 13:5b)
It is DEVOTED TO AND PREFERS OTHERS (Romans 12:10)
It CONTRIBUTES TO THE NEEDS/RESPECTS WHAT IS RIGHT. (Romans 12:17)
The life of Jesus, the Heart of Jesus demonstrates all of these attributes of Love. It is the heart that wills to suffer (even to die) so that others may live. The heart that gives, expecting nothing in return. Lent subjects us to heart surgery performed by the outstanding Surgeon Dr. Holy Spirit. He recreates our hearts to reflect the Heart of Jesus. The heart of Divine Mercy, Compassion, and Love.
This subject on Body Building love is so different, so contrary to the society in which we live in today.
2 Timothy 3:1-2Amplified Bible (AMP)
But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. 2 For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane,
That is why Lent is unpopular among many. Its three acts of mercy (almsgiving, fasting, and prayer) are placed in the vivid contrast to the attitude of the world we live in. Lent challenges us to give Alms when we have many wanting to receive the bonus/salary that they deserve. Lent dares us to fast, while the world lures us to feast, party and eat. Lent calls us to prayer, while the world craves for entertainment, television, computer games, social media.
Giving Alms - Receiving Bonus
Fast - Feast and Parties
Prayer - Entertainment
If we really believe in the “full gospel”, if we really are true disciples of Christ, if we are serious in following Christ, then we must share also in His sufferings. At that, we cringe at the words “Suffering”, (“Agony”, Affliction, Pain) and “Sacrifice”
What I would like to share as a summary of all the attributes of Love listed above is what I call the “Paradox of the Gospel of Suffering”. At the on-set I wish to make it clear that I believe in Divine healing and in prosperity. I believe that the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross paid for our healing, destroyed the curse of sickness and poverty in man’s life. But let us not be misled to the extreme teaching of the “Health & Wealth” proponents that just because Christ suffered for us, we do not need to suffer…That all suffering is of the devil.
What does Scripture say?
Romans 8:17 New International Version (NIV)
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
2 Corinthians 1:5New International Version (NIV)
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
This is kind of suffering which Christ calls us to share and participate in. It is called “redemptive suffering”.
On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airline flight 255 took off at 8:45 pm from Detroit airport. Just moments after take-off, the jet plunged into a part of the city and crashed. There were 155 passengers on board that flight. 154 passengers died. The lone survivor was a 4-year-old girl named Cecilia. It was a miracle. Her parents and older brother all perished with the rest of the passengers and flight crew. How could this one girl survive that harrowing experience? According to the story that was pieced together after the girl recovered, her mom who was seated beside her, upon learning of the imminent danger of the plane crash, took off her seat belt, went in front of the girl, (sandwiching her daughter between her and the plane seat), wrapped her arms around her to protect her from the perilous crash. The mother died but the life of the girl was saved.
That is redemptive suffering. That is what the Father God in the Person of Christ did for you and me when He hung on the cross to breath His last breath to say, “It is finished!”. That is the same redemptive suffering that Christ calls each of us to participate in on behalf of a brother and sister – to not seek our own, or be jealous, but to prefer them instead of the convenience that we can enjoy or the pleasure that we rightfully deserve.
We must hold on to a true and complete biblical view (God’s view) on suffering. Suffering with Christ is a normal part of Christian life. Let us look at the way the life of the apostles of Christ ended after giving up everything to follow Jesus…
Matthew – killed by a sword
Mark –dragged to death by horses
Luke – hanged
John- boiled in a huge basin of oil then exiled to Patmos
Peter – crucified upside down
James the Just – thrown over the top of the temple/bludgeoned to death
James the Greater – beheaded
Bartholomew – whipped to death
Andrew – crucified
Thomas – stabbed with a spear
Jude – killed with arrows
Matthias – stoned and then beheaded
Phillip – crucified
Paul – beheaded
1 Peter 4:12-13 (J.B. Phillips Translation)
And now dear friends of mine. I beg you not to be unduly alarmed at the fiery ordeals which come to test your faith, as though this were some abnormal experience. You should be glad because it means that you are called to share Christ’s sufferings.
The early Christian martyrs all had this attitude. They even rejoiced in the suffering.
Acts 5:41Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The apostles left the council and were happy because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus.
Those who do not know God cannot rejoice in suffering because they have no reason to do so… they see suffering as pointless. But Christians in the early church saw life and the tribulations they underwent from the point of view of God. They saw this present world from the perspective of the life to come. Suffering is not pointless, rather,suffering with Christ is a great honor & privilege, a great gift from God…realizing that the Loving Father is working something good in us.
John 16:33 Amplified Bible (AMP)
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world, you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]
Redemptive suffering which we go through is done for the benefit of other people at our expense. That is what the word GRACE reminds us of and stands for. Grace is God’s Resources Available at Christ’s Expense. Lent calls us to suffer with Jesus, so that others may live. I serve Jesus when I serve others. In Matthew 25,
The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
The suffering of Christ on the cross of Calvary is a vivid and clear illustration of this redemptive suffering. One of the words which He cried out (there were 7 words which we will look into next week) is that of “I thirst!” Among the 7 words of Jesus, “I thirst” is one which we could easily identify with. What is striking in this word is the irony of it. Jesus, the Word that created the universe and every substance and particle within, cries “I thirst!”. What can satisfy thirst? WATER! Who created water? God, inChrist invented H20… every water molecule, every river, every pond, each tiny drop of rain, all the available water source on earth is His…Yet, here He is, on the cross of suffering, crying out in thirst…Why has He limited Himself at this point? He could have made it rain. If He caused the ravens to bring food for Elijah, could he not have them bring water. He could have done a miracle to quench His thirst. But He didn’t. Rather, He now asks for human assistance. He asks for a man, for someone, for anyone to quench His thirst. The God who invented water and made water cries out for a man to quench His thirst. “I am thirsty… Can someone help Me?”
Someone in the crowd steps up, takes a sponge on a hyssop branch, dips the sponge in a jar of sour wine and brings it up to Jesus’ mouth. (John 19:29). Now imagine that you took that role of that some who took that hyssop branch with a sponge and who raised it to Jesus so that His thirst is alleviated. Don’t you realize what privilege that would be? What an honor, no matter how small the role, to be chosen by God to play out that part of that man and be put into the journals and affairs of mankind and talked about for the rest of human history. The Son of God, the Creator of the universe has chosen you to satisfy His thirst. It is like Chris Martin or Johnny Buckland of Coldplay asking you to hold the microphone during his concert. Wow! What a treat! I don’t mind the small role, just to be part of that British Rock Group. Well, Someone greater than Chris Martin is saying to you… “I thirst!” Can someone give me a drink?” When you go home tonight, there will be people in your neighborhood who will cry out, “I thirst!” When you go to work tomorrow, or to school, there will be men and women who will ask for a drink. And when you do it even to the least of them, you do it to Jesus. When you help someone in pain, when you sacrifice your time to pay attention to the cries of people, even family members and friends whom we may have taken for granted, we become the Roman soldier to reach out with the sponge on a hyssop stick to quench the thirst of Jesus crying out, “I thirst”…
In the sixties, Doug Nichols, a missionary in India, was trying to share the Bible and have people accept Jesus with the local Indian population. He did this by giving out tracks and asking people to listen to the gospel which he would like to preach. He was ignored. No one wanted a track, no one paid attention to his preaching. After some time, He contacted tuberculosis while living in India and was confined to a sanitarium. While there he tried to make the patients and hospital staff accept Christ, he attempted to preach the gospel, and give out tracks. No one accepted Christ. Everyone politely declined his offerfor salvation. One night, awakened by his persistent coughing, Doug saw a very old man, a fellow patient in the hospital ward and advanced in tuberculosis. The man was trying to get out of bed. This elderly patient struggled and after many attempts, he still lay helpless on his bed, exhausted, crying. Doug could not understand what he wanted to do, not until the next morning. He found out that the man wanted to go to the bathroom to relieve himself, but since he wasn’t able to, he wet and soiled his bed. The stench in the ward was awful, many patients cursed the old man, yelling insults… the hospital staff was furious for the mess this old man created. Angry nurses moved him roughly as they cleaned up the soiled bed. The man could just curl up on his bed and weep. The next night, the same scene happened. In his frustration and failure to get up, the man just cried on his bed. This time, Doug Nichols approached the man, stood by his bedside, and touched him. The man’s eyes opened wide in fear. Doug gave him a warm, affectionate smile, picked- up the man (who was so skinny because of the advanced state of his TB), and brought the man to the toilet. Doug put his hands under the man’s armpits to give him the needed support for what the elderly was about to do. After the man relieved himself and finished what he had to do, Doug carried him back to the bed and laid him down. As he did, the man kissed Doug on the cheek, smiled and uttered something in Indian…. The next morning, another patient woke Doug up, handed him a steaming cup of tea, asking for a gospel track. As the morning went by, more patients asked for the tracks that Doug tried to offer but no one was interested before. Throughout the day, nurses, interns, doctors asked for the literature about Jesus. Later on, upon investigation by the local church there, they found out that many accepted Christ as Savior. What did it take for them to come to that point? Not the persuasive words of Doug, or the nice tracks… but a simple act of helping someone go to the bathroom. Of course, it wasn’t that simple, it was a sacrifice on Doug’s part to do. Yet he took the fall… he suffered so that others can have a life. He denied his own pleasures to give others the joy of life.
Suffering with Christ does not need to be in dramatic proportions. It could be small random acts of kindness to a friend or a stranger. What are you willing to do to help make life better for others? It could start at home. It might be your children crying for attention… it might be our mother needing help in the kitchen, or your dad working on something outside. It could be your neighbor needing help, or a stranger seeking some aid or support, … even just a sincere smile and good morning to encourage them. When we do it even to the least, we do it to Jesus. Let us not be insulated or detached from the world because of self…trying to protect “my needs, my time, my money”, unwilling to be inconvenienced or disturbed. What kind of love do we have? Is it a love that does not seek its own? Are we willing to suffer with Christ and show the love that will build and prefer others? Will we be ready to start tonight? Tomorrow?